Kellan Ayrwick, a television executive, changes careers, and his address, in the first book of this series by author James P. Cudney.
The story begins as Kellan makes a trip home to Braxton, Pennsylvania, for his father’s retirement as President of Braxton College. Kellan is also doing double duty- the party coincides with the meeting he’s arranged for a source on the true-crime drama Dark Reality, of which he is assistant producer. Unfortunately, his meeting with his “source” never happens, as the dead body of Professor Abbey Monroe is found by a family friend during the party.
Kellan is ever-more deeply involved in the investigation into Monroe’s death, as well as the politics concerning a change in leadership for the school, the power plays and underhanded dealings of the Board in regards to scholarship and the athletic departments, and even a potential romance between Kellan and one old friend, as well as his sister Eleanor and another old friend. Somehow Kellan must balance all of these complicated relationships while exercising his investigative journalism aspirations to appease his boss back in Los Angeles.
Even if I didn’t know that this was the first book in a series, the author did leave numerous hints throughout the text that Kellan wanted to make a more permanent move to Braxton, such as 1) his dissatisfaction with his boss, Derek, over lack of proper recognition for all his hard work; 2) the cajoling, encouragement, and guilt-trips laid by various members of his family; 3) and his own stated desires to renew his relationships with family members, such as Eleanor and Nana D, and his former close friends Connor and Maggie. All of these led me, as the reader, to believe that events would eventually shape to allow Kellan to come home for good.
While the story contains multiple subplots and a large number of characters, I found the overall storyline drew me in and the mystery absorbing. The eventual homecoming of Kellan may have been predictable, but the climax and resulting conclusion of the story were not. The plot contained a number of surprises-the identity of the killer, the identity of the new President of Wharton-among them, along with a twist at the end I didn’t even imagine coming!
In short, this book, of the “cozy mystery” style, contains a dash of action, plenty of suspense, and enough twists and turns to hook me and award this book five stars. I will definitely be checking out more books in this new series, and recommend it to readers.